The Fat Duck
1 High Street
+44 (0) 1628 580 333
The Fat Duck is not at all what one would expect. It’s located in quaint little Bray, near Maidenhead. The exterior of the building is fairly nondescript and we nearly walked right past it.
The Fat Duck was placed second best for four consecutive years till 2009 on San Pellegrino’s Best 50, just below el Bulli (which has sadly closed its doors for good July this year). We had hoped to make a quick stop to Roses, Spain this trip before it closed. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, el Bulli was completely booked out months in advance.
The Fat Duck dropped to a respectable third in 2010, and is currently sitting in fifth place in 2011.
I’m happy to say that all good things you hear about The Fat Duck are true. We had an amazing and beautiful afternoon, and this perfect encounter falls under one of my most favourite dining experiences to date.
Reservations for The Fat Duck opens exactly two months in advance. They have the one tasting menu (£160). Note this has been increased to £180.
Our reservation was for a Sunday lunch. The interior is fairly small and patrons can’t help but be in close proximity yet the tables are well placed to ensure privacy. It was a beautifully cosy, warm and intimate setting.
We arrived 12pm sharp, as we had been advised to allocate up to 4 hours for the tasting menu. After seating us, we were offered Champagne flutes to start the afternoon.
Nothing like a beautiful bubbly the shade of peach to toast the start of what would be a perfect dining experience.
The tasting menu was encased in a beautifully bound leather book, with the Fat Duck logo emblazoned on the front.
Heston Blumenthal’s quirkiness and thoughtfulness was evident throughout the entire afternoon. Our first glimpse was when we noticed that you could open the menu from the right or the left side, both revealed identical copies of their tasting menu.
Service was impeccable. Given the small space, they were very well-staffed. There was at least one server to every table. One of my dining companions dropped his napkin as he left the table, and before any of us could react to pick it up, our server appeared from nowhere and it was deftly returned to the table.
The wine list was an incredibly thick and heavy leather bound book which had an extensive list of wines from all regions. We decided on the £90 and the £185 wine pairing options.
Amuse bouche of Aerated Beetroot with Horseradish Cream
This gorgeous creation was beautifully crunchy contrasting with the velvety smooth horseradish cream.
Citrus Grove - Nitro Poached Apertif
Dining at the Fat Duck is all about the experience. Everyone is filled with intrigue as we watch the servers wheel these precious little carts to various tables. We were given the choices of Vodka and Lime Sour, Gin & Tonic or Campari Soda.
Our entire table opts for Vodka & Lime Sour. We watch the server intently as he skilfully releases an aerated mixture of vodka and egg white from one of the three canisters lined up on the right. He pours in the liquid nitrogen from the flask on the left, and deftly maneuvers the spoon around as the apertif is poached, to reveal a delicate white meringue.
He picks up the green tea powder puff and gently shakes it over the apertif, before picking up the bottle of fragrance and spritzing it above us. With the citrusy scents still lingering, he presents me with my apertif and cautions me to eat it immediately. I obediently pop it in my mouth and experienced the icy cold sensation of the delicate apertif. It’s incredibly light and vanished quickly but I was left with beautifully tangy lime notes. One has to marvel at the thought and care that has been put into this theatrical performance.
Butter is something very close to my heart. I absolutely adore butter. The unsalted and unpasteurised butter was extremely creamy and it took plenty of willpower to decline second servings of the bread, which they constantly presented to us throughout the afternoon.
Maze’s Seaweed Butter is still hard to beat. Creamy and soft.
Our next course arrives.
Red Cabbage Gazpacho with Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream
A rich purple liquid with tiny specks of red cabbage is poured into our dish and surrounds the ice cream. The gazpacho is cool and pure, the mustard ice cream is cold and mildly savoury. As visually striking as this dish is, in light of the other dishes, it failed to excite me.
Jelly of Quail, Crayfish Cream with Chicken Liver Parfait
We were instructed to pop the edible film onto our tongues as they poured water into the oak moss, producing a mist that spilled onto the table and drifted into all directions.
The combination of the melting film and its oak-ey flavours, the visual effect of the mist pouring out of the oak moss and its accompanying aroma evoked sensations of being in a magical forest.
This dish was sensational. Each spoonful of the creamy smooth velvety texture of the quail jelly, crayfish cream and parfait combined with the crunchy fragrant truffle toast was a delight.
Snail Porridge, Iberico Bellota Ham & Shaved Fennel
Another one of my favourites. One of his signature dishes, the vivid intense shade of green is produced from parsley, and yet you couldn’t possibly discern this from the taste. Beautifully presented - I couldn’t get enough of this stunning green concoction, the wonderfully cooked tender snails, and savoury chunks of ham.
Roast Foie Gras, Barberry, Braised Konbu and Crab Biscuit
As are most, I’m incredibly partial to foie gras. It’s so creamy rich and luscious. I struggle between whether I want to inhale it or preserve it, savour it or worship it.
The Foie Gras was delicious with the savoury crab biscuit. I’m not sure if I like the tangy Barberry Puree. The portion of Foie Gras was quite delicate and I didn’t think the Barberry puree was necessary to cut through the richness.
A lovely keepsake which is nestled in my diary.
Mock Turtle Soup
The Mock Turtle Egg is made out of Turnip Mousse and Swede Puree, with Enoki Mushrooms. There are slivers of Black Truffle, tiny pickled Cucumber cubes and a Terrine of Ox Tongue.
We were presented with our very own golden pocket watch.
Mad Hatter’s Tea
The golden pocket watch was placed inside the teacup and with the assistance of the stirring device, the string attached to the pocket watch wraps around the device and comes off easily, leaving the concentrated stock wrapped in gold leaf.
What’s left is a gorgeous fragrant beef consomme with floating gold specks - our Mad Hatter’s Tea.
We proceed to pour our Mad Hatter’s Tea into the dish, upon performing the final step in creating our Mock Turtle Soup. As with all of the dishes, we ate this one hesitantly. Savouring each mouthful. Delicately nibbling on each component of the dish. Then combining all the elements together.
The entire dining experience was full of surprises and amazement, wide-eyed wonder and moments of pure glee. As each dish appeared, it captures everyone’s attention and everyone greedily takes in the stunning visuals before them. Catching the eye of another. With a heavy heart of having to destroy something so beautiful, we hesitantly pick up our cutlery and take our first few mouthfuls. First met with intrigue and occasionally perplexity, it soon gives way to nods of approval, head-shaking amazement and whole-hearted enjoyment and pleasure.
The next dish was yet another highlight and a signature dish.
Each sea shell was unique. Some were standing upright, some were laid on its side. Each had a little iPod nano secluded within its shell.
Sound of the Sea
Sounds of waves rolling up and down the sand, crashing against one another and the sound of seagulls in the background conjure up precious moments and treasured memories of a lazy afternoon, the evening sun, loved ones, laughter, the salty breeze, the feel of the warm sand beneath your feet.
Everyone has a secret smile on their faces.
This gorgeous dish of fresh sashimi slivers and seaweed, grains of sand crafted from tapioca and the konbu foam is an exquisite piece of art. Beautifully plated on a clear glass panel, with sand and delicate broken sea shells lay beneath.
I love how everyone’s memory of this course would be different, depending on which feelings are evoked, which memory and which images are conjured up by this sensory delight.
Salmon Poached in a Liqorice Gel with Asparagus, Vanilla Mayonnaise and Golden Trout Roe
The Salmon was perfectly cooked with very little hints of Liqorice. Tiny dollops of creamy mayonnaise and the richness of the Golden Trout Roe popping in your mouth was pure delight.
Lamb with Cucumber, Onion and DIll Fluid Gel
Lamb was beautifully pink. Nothing out of the ordinary with this dish. But the accompaniment below was a treat.
A selection of gorgeous lamb sweetbreads.
Lamb Jelly with Mint
Hot & Iced Tea
This is another one of Heston Blumenthal’s creations that leave you shaking your head and smiling in wonderment.
An unassuming little glass is placed in front of us. As you sip it, you notice the strangest sensation, the tea is warm, and yet cold. And your brain is trying to process the concept of experiencing both extremes in your mouth at the same time, and you don’t want it to end. A magical cup of tea. It is over far too soon.
We are presented with these gorgeous Earl Grey Ice Cream Cornets. The cone wafer is crunchy and dusted with sugar yet salty and the ice cream is soft creamy and fragrant.
Macerated Strawberries, Olive OIl Biscuit, Chamomile and Coriander Jelly
A visually stunning dessert. The variety of strawberries were beautifully sweet and strikingly red. The gingham picnic rug was edible white chocolate with flower petals strewn across.
BFG - Black Forest Gateau
This was surprisingly quite light. Layers of chocolate mousse, vanilla mousse and hidden cherry pieces lay within the chocolate cake walls, accompanied with a quenelle of strong Kirsch (Brandy distilled from the Fermented Juice of Cherries) Ice Cream.
Whiskey Wine Gums
Like a Kid in a Sweet Shop
Each of us were presented with a pretty pink and white candy striped paper bag.
Apple Pie Caramel
Aerated Chocolate with Mandarin Jelly
A light Aero-esque chocolate with hints of mandarin.
Queen of Hearts
White chocolate crafted to resemble a playing card on both sides.
Our dining experience at The Fat Duck was truly memorable. Filled with laughter and smiles, and wide-eyed wonder and amazement. Presentation was spectacularly enthralling, entrancing and exquisitely magical. The food was an equal match in every way possible. With our expectations heightened by the visual effect and theatrics of each dish, the taste, flavours and textures were a perfect match. Service was perfect. They were incredibly attentive without watching you like hawks, and they were so attuned to your needs, yet you hardly noticed their presence except when they were bringing you each course. Each time we finished our wine but had yet to finish the particular course, as soon as we set the glass down, our server would immediately top up the glass until the course was completed.
The Fat Duck will always remain as one of my most beloved dining experiences.
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